- Students: The Original American Revolutionaries - February 21, 2018
- The Case of the Shrinking Education Department - November 12, 2017
- We Must Teach the Worst of our History; Not Glorify It - August 14, 2017
- Transgender Student Rights are Human Rights - February 23, 2017
- Why “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” Still Matters in 2017 - January 16, 2017
- No Right to an Education: Detroit Schools and the Secretary of Education Nominee - November 29, 2016
- I Think I Failed You – A Civics Teacher’s Letter to her Former Students - November 16, 2016
- Transforming the ‘Trump Effect’ in Schools - October 27, 2016
- Implicit Bias: The Missed Post-Debate Discussion - October 4, 2016
- 15 Years after 9/11: Days of Infamy & Memory as History - September 12, 2016
Teachers are among the many casualties of this faltering economy, especially young, motivated teachers. So many promising educators –who have chosen a career path of little financial reward because they want to help growing young minds — are waiting in the wings, wondering when they’ll get their opportunity. Those new teachers now must compete with teachers like me, who have been laid off because districts can no longer afford to keep the amount of teachers that would create a reasonable student-teacher ratio. With an average of 6-7,000 teachers per state laid off in the last three years (many more in larger states, of course), it’s getting harder and harder to enter (or re-enter) the field.
Since the 2008 economic crash, the state revenue that districts rely on dried up very quickly. But this in itself is a symptom of one of the major myths Americans often believe about education. In this column, I thought I’d lay out three of these major myths that are affecting the employment of good teachers. Looking deeper into what we believe about education will give us more to consider when we think about the conditions both employed and unemployed teachers face in the U.S.
Myth #1: Education is a right. In fact, there is no constitutional right to an education in the United States at the federal level. Though most democratic constitutions that are modeled after ours list education in their Bills of Rights, the U.S. has never constitutionally addressed the issue. What this means, at a very basic level, is that the federal government is not required to provide for the protection or preservation of education (specifically, there is no mandate to fund it). There are wildly differing expenditures on education at local levels. For example, Mississippi spends about $7500 per student, while New York averages around $16,000 per student. Each state also has different constitutional and legislative priorities when it comes to funding education. In 1973, the Supreme Court specifically stated in a case called Gonzales v. San Antonio, that there is no “inherent right to an education” in the U.S. Constitution, and therefore the federal government is under no obligation to mitigate inequalities in funding or conditions amongst the states and districts. Because of this, there is no nationwide ability or mandate to recruit or retain good teachers in the public education system, and no way to equalize funding (or pay) for all schools.
Click here for myth #2.